Friday, September 18, 2015

The Hofbrauhaus

When most people think of Munich, the first thing that pops into their mind is undoubtedly beer. In the capital of Bavaria, this beverage is more than just as a drink- it’s a way of life! Every September, the city hosts a sixteen day festival called Oktoberfest, where a whopping seven million liters are served. But if you want to celebrate beer year round in Munich, then you have to go to the Hofbräuhaus, the world’s most famous beer hall.
The Hofbräuhaus was founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, when he and the city council were not happy with the local beer. ‘Hobrau' means royal beer and ‘haus’ translates to house, but in 1828 King Ludwig opened the Hofbräuhaus to the public. This beer hall’s history is just as rich as its beer.  The Hofbräuhaus saved Munich during the Thirty Years War when the Swedes occupied it in 1632 and they agreed to not destroy the city in exchange for 1,000 buckets of beer; Mozart claimed to have written his opera ‘Idomeneo’ here;  it was the headquarters of the communist government of Munich in 1919;  the first meeting place of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists in 1920; and Vladimir Lenin frequented the hall in the years leading up to World War II. Sadly, the Hofbräuhaus was almost entirely demolished by the Allied bombs in April of 1944 and only a small section of the original remains. The Hofbräuhaus was rebuilt to its original style and reopened in 1958 in honor of Munich’s eight hundredth birthday. 

Stepping through the doors, I was greeted by the sights of packed wooden tables, giant salty pretzels, steaming food, and jolly people clinking their pitchers. There was live music being performed by an Oom-pah band, some guests were even tipsily singing along, and the waiters and waitresses were wearing traditional lederhosens and dirndls. Many may infer from this that the Hofbräuhaus is a tourist trap, but it’s actually a beloved eatery for the regional people. The name for the regular locals who reserve tables weekly, some even daily, are called Stammgäste. An easy way to spot these people out is by their old fashioned Bavarian garments, which they wear to celebrate their heritage and pride collecting their steins from the Hofbräuhaus' stein vault, which is just left of the entrance. 

The night I went I ordered the Spaetzle egg noddles with Tegernsee-style grated cheese mix and fried onions. When you translate spätzle, it means ‘little sparrow’, but it is essentially is German mac’ n cheese. This meal dates back to the at least the year 1725, but medieval drawings show that it has likely been around for much longer.  The spätzle had a good consistency to it, and I found every bite of it to be silky and smooth, except when I devoured the crunchy, crisp fried onions. Since German meals are heavy with meat, carnivorous dishes the Hofbräuhaus offer up include pig knuckle, bratwurst, and weiner schnitzel. Overall, the food here is real soul food- hearty and generous in portions. 

To accompany my comfort food, I ordered the Hobrau Dark Beer, which my menu described as ‘the origin of Bavarian beer.’ I found this beer to be smooth with a light hop character and rich malty taste. Dunkle is the German word for dark, and dunkle beers typically range in color from amber to dark reddish brown. They have an alcohol content of 4.5% to 6% and are produced using Munich malts which give the dunkle its color.  Other beers the Hofbräuhaus serves include include Radler (a beer with lemonade), Muncher Weisse, and the Hofbrau Original.

The Hofbräuhaus isn’t just a Munich-must, but a place I would recommend everyone put on their own bucket lists. This is a restaurant you can seriously bring anyone to- people watchers, historians, travelers, and of course beer enthusiasts! But putting it’s iconic status aside, the reason I think people should go here before they die is because of its experience. The Hofbräuhaus can seat up to 5,000 people at a time, but sometimes it can get so packed it is not uncommon for strangers to sit together, making it a rather communal experience, something you  don’t just seldom get at a restaurant, but in life. Regardless of what the future holds for the Hofbräuhaus, it is guaranteed to always be a fun time. 

Platzl 9, 80331 
München, Germany
+49 89 290136100

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Mark Twain was so besotted with Heidelberg, Germany when he lived there for several months in 1878 that he devoted a chapter in his work, A Tramp Abroad, describing why it is the most ideal city and though I only spent a fifth of my trip there, I would 100% agree with Twain! 

Heidelberg is a city situated on the River Neckar in southwest Germany.It is the longest city in the country and  a popular destination because of its romantic and picturesque landscape.

On our second day in Heidelberg,  my university and I were provided a walking tour of the city by a woman named Sonja, who also went by Mary Poppins because she habitually wears a boater hat and gloves as well as carries a parasol. The first stop was at the Jesuitenkirche, a Catholic church that was built from 1712 to 1751 for the Jesuits who arrived in 1698. 

Both the interior and exterior are quite a sight, but my favorite part was going outside to the silent area, a lush outdoor garden where visitors can go to quietly reflect and meditate. It was the only moment that day I really had to myself and as an introvert I treasured it. 

From there, Sonja took us on a funicular up to Heidelberg Castle. It is this Gothic masterpiece that makes Heidelberg a place out a fairy tale. It was built and repeatedly extended between the 13th and 17th centuries and was extinguished by the Thirty Years’ War and the 1689 war with France. Despite it now being in ruins, it is viewed as one of Germany’s most beautiful gems. 

One of the things I was most excited to see in Germany was Heidelberg Castle and it definitely exceeded my expectations. I was the secretary of my drama club in high school, so it was awesome discovering the Castle has a stage where it regularly puts on productions. My only wish during the trip was that we arrived a few days earlier so I could have seen their recent production of Romeo & Juliet. Another part of the Castle I enjoyed was the Heidelberg Tun, the world’s largest wine barrel. Back when it was constructed in 1751, it held 221, 726 liters. Today, due to the drying of the wood, it can only hold 219,000 liters. 
After Sonja's tour, I toured the University of Heidelberg’s student prison. Founded in 1386, this university is the oldest university in Germany and is basically the nation’s Harvard. From 1778 to 1914, the University of Heideilberg could imprison their students from 24 hours to 4 weeks for any rule breaking. The students were still allowed to attend lectures, so the prison was more like a restrictive dormitory, and those in residence would occupy their time grafting the walls to immortalize their stay. It was not uncommon for a student to create mischief just to be sent there so they could be with their friends. I thought touring the University Prison was a unique experience because prior to it I had never heard of a university prisoning its students.  Overall, I was impressed with the way the University had preserved the prison. With the pristine graffiti and the smell of urine lingering in the air, you would have had no idea that the prison has been out of service for a hundred years. 

Following a midday lunch break of sausages and beer, I climbed to the top of Heiliggeistkirche, the most famous church in Heidelberg. It stands in the middle of the market place in the old center of Heidelberg and is the city’s oldest sanctuary. It’s steeple dominates the city, and climbing all 208 steps to the top was terrifying. There is only one staircase that takes you up and down and it just so happens to be a narrow spiral one. I found myself clinging to the wall to ensure I wouldn't fall to my death, but once at the top, as just like everything I had been seeing in Germany, it was to die for! 

From the Heiliggeistkirche, I did some more intense climbing at Philosopher’s Walk. Built in 1817 on the slopes of Heiligenberg and at an altitude of 650 feet, the Philosopher’s Walk offers a magnificent view of the city. My professor told us the reason for its’ name is you’re suppose to have either philosophical thoughts or discussions during the climb and when I ascended with him and two other student we did indeed have some stimulating talks about death and identity. 

Now that is a vista you could talk about for a long time if you can find words to describe it!

My stay in Heidelberg went out with bang.There are three times every summer when the well-known Schlossbeleuchtung and fireworks display happens and they are the first Saturday in June and September and the second Saturday in July, which was when I was there. 

The castle lighting is done in memory of the three times when the castle went up in flames (1689, 1693, and 1764). The first two times were due to wars with the French, and the last time by lightning. After the flames in the Castle gradually faded, it was time for part two- the fireworks launched off of the Old Bridge.These fireworks symbolized when the Elector-Palatine, Friedrich V, first brought his newlywed bride, Elizabeth Stuart (daughter of James I of England), back to Heidelberg in 1613 and he arranged for her to be greeted with a  fireworks display. It was the best fireworks display I'd ever seen, even surpassing the ones in Disney! 

Stay tuned for my next post on Munich!